The art market in the Middle East is booming and, despite the increase in exhibitions of western art in places like Louvre Abu Dhabi, the demand and interest in artists from the region is increasing. Art fairs and auctions of Middle Eastern art continue to break records, new museums are constantly being built, and in acknowledgement of the importance of art from the region, there is now a rush to publish art historical volumes about the modern and contemporary art of the Middle East and North Africa. Right now, artnet, an art market and auction website with headquarters in New York, London and Berlin, has just teamed up with Emergeast to hold its first ever auction with a Middle East based gallery, offering young collectors ‘investable’ work at affordable prices.
Emergeast is an online contemporary art gallery that presents work by artists with roots in the Middle East and was founded by Dima Abdul Kader and Nikki Meftah in 2014. The platform not only gives young artists from the region the opportunity to sell and promote their work, but it also encourages and educates young people about buying and collecting art. ‘We wanted to extend our presence to the Western audience who have been increasingly interested in art from the region’, explains Meftah, ‘We thought there’s no better fit than with artnet auctions for this sale that’s geared to a younger audience.’ The collaboration with artnet – a website that is operated in the West – means that the auction is not only a selling opportunity for the artists involved, but it is also provides the chance for both the artists involved and Emergeast to gain exposure by new audiences and collectors. Curated by Abdul Kader and Meftah, the sale includes works that begin with estimates as low (and affordable) as 2,500 USD, with Emergeast being committed to making art approachable and unintimidating to all.
Amongst the lots on sale is Abdul Rahman Katanani’s A Boy with a Kite, 2018, whose work has previously been sold at Christie’s in Dubai, with Boy flying with a balloon, 2012, selling for 21,250 USD in 2012, having more than doubled its estimate of 8,000 USD. Also on sale are works by Pooya Aryanopour and Babak Kazemi, whose Exit of Shirin & Farhad 2012, shows three women asleep, wrapped in ornate Persian carpets. The scene has been taken from the ancient love story – which has roots in the Shahnameh, the ancient Persian book of kings – of Princess Shirin and Farhad, a common laborer. Both Shirin and Farhad die for the sake of their forbidden love, yet Kazemi’s digital chromogenic print shows a tender representation of the universal understanding of love.
The sale includes work from Dina Matar, Younes Faghihi, Anas Homsi and Adel Younesi, with the auction comprising artists of Iranian, Palestinian and Syrian descent. ‘We’ve put together an interesting array of works for this auction as we wanted to give artnet’s audience a well-rounded selection of art from the Middle East’, says Meftah, speaking about the selection of artworks, ‘From interesting medium’s such as Katanani’s scrap metal found in Palestinian refugee camps to Sasan Nasernia’s new calligraphic canvases, we wanted to push the boundaries and offer more than traditional media.’ Highlights include Anas Homsi’s Wall of Memories, 2015 and Sasan Nasernia’s Viscous Script IV, 2018. Syrian artist Homsi’s acrylic Wall of Memories combines colourful abstract brushstrokes with the black silhouettes of individuals in profile. Based in Berlin, Homsi’s work draws inspiration from his experience of being uprooted during the war in Syria. His canvases explore the emotions fuelled by war, placement, displacement and the implications of this on the human mind, thus explaining the presence of faces amongst the somewhat mad splattering of bright colours. Meanwhile, Nasernia’s Viscous Script IV reflects the artist’s interest in tension and juxtaposition. Encompassing two separate parts that are connected by fragile pieces of canvas, two sides of the same painting create a push-pull effect that reflects the balance between order and chaos. The material that connects each part of the artwork together appears liquid, and sticky, much like the word ‘viscous’ in the work’s title. Nasernia looks to both tradition and the future, drawing on traditional Persian painting and calligraphy, incorporating gold leaf to reflect an interest in the antique, but also creating ambiguity with it’s composition, speaking to more contemporary concerns.
Artnet provides its buyers with the ability to view each artwork’s history and provenance as well as the artist’s signature and a condition report, meaning that even though the work is being sold online, prospective purchasers have the ability to examine every detail what they are buying from all angles. There is even a specialist advisor in Middle Eastern art on hand should buyers have any questions so that any queries will be answered as quickly and as smoothly as possible by people with the knowledge to do so.
‘The Middle Eastern art market is growing at a rapid rate’, explains Abdul Kader, ‘Currently in boom phase, there is marked international attention from collectors and institutions keen to acquire contemporary art by the region’s prolific artists.’ Taking this into account, now seems like the perfect time to build a collection of contemporary Middle Eastern art, with artnet and Emergeast making it easier for young collectors to break into the market.
artnet x EMERGEAST: New Voices in Middle Eastern Art runs until 6 September 2018 at https://www.artnet.com/auctions/emergeast-0918/2